How many times have you attended an ELL in-service only to be disappointed because too much time was spent on theory and rhetoric or content that was inappropriate for your grade level? How many times have you attended workshops that left you frustrated, with more questions than answers or solutions? As teachers, we are looking for answers to how to work effectively with our students every day, to help them meet rigorous academic standards. Trainings that are not practical have turned many educators off and discouraged them from pursuing or attending more training to find solutions to helping their English Language Learners achieve.
Inservice Professional Development and university course work to prepare educators both need to change based on the expanding ELL population, too. There needs to be an emphasis and focus on what goes on in the classroom and what kinds of strategies will make ELLs successful, and less time spent on theory and rhetoric. After 25 years as a classroom teacher (in my case, secondary science), I know what I wanted to hear about when I attended professional development training: I wanted to hear about how to attack academic vocabulary issues, how to help my English learners read proficiently, how to help these students write and think critically and get excited about my class and learning. Over the years, I spent time talking and listening to other teachers. It was really no surprise that most of my colleagues were after the same strategies and resources. So when I got the opportunity to create inservice training programs and preservice university courses, I made sure that the emphasis was on materials that provided specific strategies that would address these classroom issues. The idea was simply to consider what content teachers face each day and provide real solutions to these problems. With this kind of practical support, ELL students will show increased language development and academic success!
It is my opinion that schools of higher education and educators responsible for inservice professional development, teacher training, and teacher support, K-12, need to carefully evaluate their programs to make sure they are providing what is actually needed in the field. There should be an expansion of teacher training programs to include strategies for working with diverse populations, making all teachers aware of how to address academic language development, help ELLs achieve college and career readiness standards, and understand students from diverse cultures. These professional development programs need to include reading strategies, vocabulary building, strategies for modifying content specific activities, and easily implemented lesson plans that engage ALL students so that the growing population of English learners in our schools can reach their potential.
Tell me what you think.